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Crime rate falling, says Police Minister

8 March 2004

Media Statement

Crime rate falling, says Police Minister

"For too long people have been under the belief that New Zealand's overall recorded crime rate is rising when in fact it's falling," Police Minister George Hawkins says.

Official New Zealand crime statistics issued today by Police for the calendar year 2003 show a 1.2 percent reduction in recorded offences per 10,000 population.

"This is accompanied by an increased crime resolution rate for 2003 of 43.5 percent, the best result since 1987," Mr Hawkins said. In 2002, the resolution rate was 41.9 percent.

The figures confirm New Zealand crime rates have been trending down since peaking in 1996, Mr Hawkins said. Taking into account that New Zealand's population grew by approximately 277,000 people between 1996 and 2003, total recorded crime figures in 2003 were 7.3 percent lower than 1996, and the resolution rate 6.7 percent better.

Rates of recorded offences per 10,000 population have fallen 13.7 percent since 1996. That year crimes per 10,000 population numbered 1279.7, compared with 1103.7 in 2003.

Opposition politicians had misrepresented crime rates as rising, when the facts were total reported offences had fallen since peaking seven years ago, Mr Hawkins said.

Any lingering public perception of an increasing crime rate or police being understaffed or inadequately funded could not be supported in fact, and the public should feel reassured by that, he said.

"The claim of some politicians that police have not had their finger on the pulse of crime and have instead concentrated on other areas such as road policing, is revealed as simply untrue given the continuing downward trend of crime and higher resolution rates," Mr Hawkins said.

Today's figures showed what could be achieved when proactive policing met a government willing to respond to police requirements, he said.

The Labour-led government had supported police to tackle crime.

"Police now have more money, more staff, many new and upgraded stations, a $29m vehicle replacement programme, better equipment and better legislation, like tougher sentences for methamphetamine use, new boy racer laws and the new liquor by-laws," Mr Hawkins said. "Today's figures are the result."

The current police budget was the biggest ever and staff levels at the highest ever, Mr Hawkins said. The police budget for 2003/04 was a record $1.01 billion, up 17.5 percent on the 1999/00 budget of $862 million. Nearly 1000 more police had been added to police ranks since 1999.

Sworn and non-sworn police staff at 31 December 2003 numbered 9660, compared with 8673 in November 1999. Last year saw a turnaround in Auckland police numbers, which were now at full strength. More than 2000 sworn police currently operated across Auckland's three police districts.

A $60m programme to upgrade and rebuild police stations over five years had seen a number of new stations opened in 2003, including Whangamata, Great Barrier Island, Kapiti, Howick and Manurewa. Construction of a new Oamaru station had begun, with plans underway for new stations at Palmerston North, Morrinsville, Glen Innes and North Shore. Other stations, including Invercargill and Westport, underwent major refurbishment during 2003.

Mr Hawkins said highlights of the 2003 crime statistics included:

- Murder offences down in 2003 to 46 from 66 in 2002

- Sexual offences down nationally by 7.4 percent

- Homicides down to 104 offences from 122 in 2002

- The road toll down to its third lowest rate on record

- Cannabis related offences down 5.4 percent

- Total crime per 10,000 head of population down in eight of the country's 12 police districts

- Violence resolution rate up nationally to 79.9 percent

- Resolution rates up in nine of the 12 police districts

- Enforcement of local body liquor bans have seen offences under the Sale of Liquor Act rise 138.4 percent

- A $29m vehicle replacement programme, new police stations built, others refurbished

- Northland police district topping the country's resolution rate at 51.8 percent, with a 6.4 percent reduction in overall recorded crime

- Counties Manukau: the largest reduction in crime in four years, including 709 less recorded burglaries and an 8.4 percent drop in violence

ENDS

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